Charles Lambert tugged at his bindings, the black silk cords tied around both wrists and ankles and secured to the bed posts. Twisting the cord on his right wrist, he managed to loosen it enough for his fingers to undo the rest of the knot entirely. Now with one hand free, he unknotted the cord around his other wrist and then freed his ankles.
Ellen thought she had been so clever in tying him down, force feeding him small vials of blood. Charles felt he had been reduced to a slobbering infant, or more accurately, an old senile man who had reverted back to childhood, with his every need provided by a nursing hand. And Ellen played the part of a nurse so well. In fact, she seemed to revel in her role as his sole provider, his tender, loving caretaker, and his saving grace.
But Charles wanted to die his own way. First though, he would try one more time to reverse the aging process so that he could be young, handsome and virile again. He had waited patiently for Ellen to leave the house so that he could free himself and move forward with his plan.
Now, on shaky legs, he shuffled over to the desk where she kept her personal journal locked in the bottom drawer. Taking her metal letter opener, he twisted the pointed end in the lock until the mechanism gave way. He found her leather-bound journal hidden beneath some papers and files. Bringing it to the desk top, Charles opened the cover and then began to sift through the pages. Finally, on the last page, he found what he was looking for: Ellen had penciled in the combinations for the sanctuary door lock and the lock on the elixir cabinet. He tore out the page and then folded it in quarters. But before he went upstairs, Charles wanted to dress for the occasion. He kept one outfit, his best suit of clothes, in a garment bag, the bag stored in the cedar chest that rested within the walk-in closet.
Now after he opened the chest and took out each article, he sighed with the many memories they induced. To many a ball and party, he wore his swallow-tail overcoat of pale blue satin with the gold buttons. The coat came with a brocade embroidered waistcoat, a shirt with ruffled sleeves, a gold silk jabot, a pair of blue satin breeches, white hose, and black dress shoes.
And the wig...Charles couldn’t forget his powdered white wig, worn by all the noblemen back in his day. His wig featured tight rolled curls along the front and a long back tail secured with a black velvet ribbon.
To round out his superbly handsome and elegant outfit, he wore on his right index finger a large, oval onyx ring, and carried an ebony walking stick with a gold handle shaped in the form of a wolfhound’s head. And when he walked into any ballroom, all heads turned his way, particularly those of the ladies who vied for his attention, whether eligible or not. Actually, he found the married women more intriguing and definitely more experienced in the art of lovemaking, his wig often mussed terribly and set askew after a quick interlude with a willing madam in one of the anterooms.
Now after carefully taking out his suit, Charles found the accoutrements to his outfit stored in boxes and wrapped delicately in tissue paper, his polished shoes, the hosiery, his ring and his wig, and several lace handkerchiefs with his initials, C.H.E.L. At the bottom of the chest lay his walking stick.
He took his time donning the entire outfit, and then gazed at himself in the full length mirror. Admiration swelled beneath his ancient veneer. Despite his ghastly face and figure, Charles still had enough dignity and nobility left to stand tall and look every bit his station in life, or what had once been his station until she took it all away from him with her empty promises. Well, now it was his turn to take back what Ellen had stolen from him...his youth, his legacy, his vitality, his looks, and his life.
After sipping the elixir like wine, Charles felt high and giddy. He encountered no problems unlocking the sanctuary door and the little cabinet that housed Ellen’s special potion. Now he walked about the house like a prince...no a king, his head held high and his frame erect. In the memory room, he had drunk half the elixir, but no change in his appearance had occurred so far. He did feel emboldened now, ready to conquer the world and make others bow down before him. His blood lust soared, and he would have his pick of mortals to satisfy his craving. But where to begin?
At the front door, he took down the note Ellen had left for her piano student, Taylor Holloway. She would be a bit late since she had gone to renew her driver’s license. Charles laughed. That could take all afternoon. He thought about Taylor Holloway, a young man with potential, attractive, lean and muscular with tousled russet hair and bright brown eyes. He would do nicely, and this way Charles didn’t have to leave the house.
When the doorbell rang, he buzzed the Holloway boy in. The teen bounded in but stopped short when he spotted Charles sitting on the settee and dressed up in his outfit. Taylor wrinkled his brow first in amazement and then with curiosity. “Hello,” he ventured. “Is Mrs. Lambert here?”
“She had to run an errand and will return shortly,” Charles told the boy. “But she asks that you wait for her.” As he spoke, he eyed Taylor keenly. When the young man took off his windbreaker, he revealed his broad shoulders and the muscles of his upper arms, his attire a maroon tee shirt and tight-fitting jeans.
“And Mr. Lambert? Is he here?”
Occasionally, Charles observed Ellen’s students just to enjoy their youthful endeavors as budding musicians, sour notes and all. Taylor Holloway actually held promise and Charles often sat in on the boy’s Thursday lessons. “No,” he now told Taylor, “Mr. Lambert is out as well.”
As the young man continued to size up the old man in the funny costume, he jabbed the toe of his black and gray running shoe with the back heel of his other. “Okay, are you his father by any chance?”
Charles nodded, willing to play the game. “Yes, I am.”
“And are you going to some kind a costume party?”
“Yes. I’m going to a soiree where everyone is asked to dress in 18th century attire.” Charles tapped the end of his walking stick on the polished teak floor. “The accoutrements are optional but desired.”
“Oh, okay.” Taylor’s frown indicated he had no idea what the old man meant, the word accoutrement obviously not in his sophomore vocabulary.
“While we wait for your teacher,” Charles suggested, “why don’t you play something recently mastered?”
The student hesitated for a moment, his face in shadows as he thought of his repertoire, rather limited by his beginning-to-intermediate status. He wanted to take piano lessons because he liked jazz music, and lots of jazz musicians played the piano. Anyone could play the guitar, but the piano took concentration and practice. When he made up his mind, Taylor offered a bright smile. “Okay. I’ll play The Boatman’s Song of the Volga.”
Sitting down on the hardwood bench, the young man stretched his fingers over the grand piano’s ivory keys, his right foot poised on the pedal that softened the tone. He began to play the score as memory kicked in to provide the mental musical notes that coordinated with his finger movements. Ellen Lambert asked each student to memorize a fairly easy piece in order to break away from relying solely on sheet music. Besides his interest in jazz, Taylor also liked Mozart and Beethoven, as well as the old ‘60s classics, particularly “Roll Over Beethoven.” For his upcoming recital, Taylor wanted to play Beethoven’s Sonata No. 1 in G Minor and then segue into the rock and roll song to add a jazzy, lively note to the otherwise staid and boring recital.
Now as the notes of the old folk song Taylor played swelled and ebbed together in perfect rhythm and harmony, Charles closed his eyes for a moment and allowed his mind to wander back so many years ago to his youth. His sister, Marianne, used to play the harpsichord for the family and often Charles sat next to her on the bench just for company. Although forced to take lessons from their piano master and also practice diligently, he never played as well and as adeptly as Marianne, his sister.
Marianne Lambert had been a charitable, gracious and talented young woman, a noblewoman by birth and manner. But Ellen—or Elena back then—had taken Marianne and drained her of life. Anger and bitterness now invaded Charles’ memories, just as Ellen had unceremoniously invaded his life as well as that of his sister’s. He had been the cad, the scoundrel, the sinner...but not Marianne. She had been kind and good, free of sin. But Ellen had desecrated Marianne’s soul and destroyed her. For that Ellen would pay...and pay dearly.
As Taylor continued to concentrate on his piece, Charles stood and crept up behind the boy, his desire—and thirst—gaining strength with each note played. His gutting tool felt warm and secure on his wrist. Specially-made in France, the instrument featured an extremely sharp blade that could spring into action and then retract when needed, the blade set in a gold wrist band, stylish enough to compliment the blue and gilt outfit he now wore.
The slice went neatly and swiftly, severing Taylor’s flesh down to the Adam’s apple. Blood spurted onto the pristine piano keys as well across the sheet music sitting on the holder above. The boy fell back and into Charles’ embrace. Bending over the body, he drank greedily, savoring every drop as he had the blood of the punk in the park. Something about extra fresh blood stimulated him much more than the packaged kind. Perhaps it had to do with the kill involved, the extra effort he had to take in order to obtain his sustenance. When you work hard for what you want, you appreciate it all the more... Someone had told Charles that long ago, perhaps his father, Sir Wilfred Lambert. Well, it certainly proved true enough. When he had his fill, Charles let the boy’s body slip to the floor. He felt exhausted now, as if he had carried around a heavy weight. He would go upstairs and sleep it off, deal with Ellen later. After all, she had sparked his orgy, so she would have to clean up the mess herself. At least the elixir had been safely tucked back in its case, both it and the sanctuary door locked up again. She need never know about his escapade up there, unless she planned to guide another mortal into her world of life everlasting as a companion and a lover. She’d need more of the potion then, but what a laugh when she found most of it gone! It served her right.
Returning to the settee, Charles slumped back as exhaustion overtook him. He could no longer keep his eyes open, although the bright emerald dazzle of the elixir bottle danced across his inner eye lids. She could always get more of the stuff, of course, and replace him so easily.
Not even gone yet, he thought as he drifted into the soft shadows of sleep, and she’s ready to take another into her realm of lies and deception...